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Dipterocarpus retusus
Dipterocarpus retusus
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Malvales
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Family: Dipterocarpaceae
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Dipterocarpaceae is a family of 17 genera and approximately 580-680 species of mainly tropical lowland rainforest trees with two-winged fruits. The largest genera are Shorea (360 species), Hopea (105 species), Dipterocarpus (70 species), and Vatica (60 species). Many are large forest emergent species, typically reaching heights of 40-70 m tall, with the tallest known living specimen over 85 m tall. The species of this family are of major importance in the timber trade. Their distribution is pantropical, from northern South America to Africa, the Seychelles, India, Indochina and Malaysia, with the greatest diversity and abundance in western Malaysia. Some species are now endangered as a result of overcutting and extensive illegal logging. They provide valuable woods, aromatic essential oils, balsam, resins and as a source for plywood.

Because most specimens are illegally harvested, Greenpeace suggests that consumers avoid using meranti.[1]

The dipterocarp family is generally divided into three subfamilies:

  • Monotoideae: 3 genera, 30 species. Marquesia is native to Africa. Monotes has 26 species, distributed across Africa and Madagascar. Pseudomonotes is native to the Colombian Amazon.
  • Dipterocarpoideae: the largest of the subfamilies, it contains 13 genera and 470-650 species. Distribution includes the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, India, Southeast Asia to New Guinea, but mostly in west Malaysia, where they form the dominant species in the lowland forests. The Dipterocarpoideae can be divided into two groups (Ashton, 1982; and Maury-Lechon and Curtet, 1998):
    • Valvate-Dipterocarpi group (Anisoptera, Cotylelobium, Dipterocarpus, Stemonoporus, Upuna, Vateria, Vateriopsis, Vatica). The genera of this group have valvate sepals in fruit, solitary vessels, scattered resin canals, and basic chromosome number x = 11.
    • Imbricate-Shoreae group (Balanocarpus, Hopea, Parashorea, Shorea). The genera of this group have imbricate sepals in fruit, grouped vessels, resin canals in tangential bands, and basic chromosome number x = 7. A recent molecular study (Dayanandan et. al., 1999) suggest that the genus Hopea forms a clade with Shorea sections Anthoshorea and Doona, and should be merged into Shorea.

A recent genetic study (Ducousso et. al. 2004) found that the Asian dipterocarps share a common ancestor with the Sarcolaenaceae, a tree family endemic to Madagascar. This suggests that ancestor of the Dipterocarps originated in the southern supercontinent of Gondwana, and that the common ancestor of the Asian dipterocarps and the Sarcolaenaceae was found in the India-Madagascar-Seychelles land mass millions of years ago, and were carried northward by India, which later collided with Asia and allowed the dipterocarps to spread across Southeast Asia and Malaysia.


The following table associates tree species, wood name and wood color. The term Philippine red mahogany refers to the wood of trees belonging to the genera Shorea and Parashorea.

Genus & section Species Wood name Wood colour Wood type
Anisoptera A. cochinchinensis, A. marginata, A. scaphula, A. thurifera and about ten other species Mersawa light hardwood
Cotylelobium C. burckii, C. lanceolatum, C. melanoxylon Resak heavy hardwood
Dipterocarpus D. alatus, D. baudii, D. basilanicus, D. borneensis, D. caudiferus, D. costulatus, D. grandiflorus, D. kerrii, D. tonkinensis, D. verrucosus, D. warburgii, and about 60 other species Keruing medium hardwood
Dryobalanops D. aromatica, D. camphora, D. junghunii, D. kayanensis, D. lanceolata, D. oblongifolia, D. sumatrensis Kapur, Kapor medium hardwood
Hopea H. acuminata, H. beccariana, H. dryobalanoides, H. mengarawan, H. nervosa, H. odorata, H. sangal and other species Merawan medium hardwood
Hopea H. ferrea, H. forbesii, H. helferi, H. nutans, H. semicuneata and other species Giam heavy hardwood
Neobalanocarpus N. heimii Cengal heavy hardwood
Parashorea P. aptera, P. buchananii, P. chinensis, P. densiflora, P. globosa, P. lucida, P. macrophylla, P. malaanonan, P. parvifolia, P. smythiesii, P. stellata, P. tomentella Gerutu light hardwood
Parashorea Parashorea plicata Bagtikan grey-brown
Shorea (Pentacme) S. contorta, S. minandensis White Lauan grey to very light red
Shorea sect. Shorea S. atrinervosa, S. brunnescens, S. crassa, S. exelliptica, S. foxworthyi, S. glauca, S. havilandii, S. laevis, S. leptoderma, S. materialis, S. maxwelliana, S. seminis, S. submontana, S. sumatrana, S. superba Balau heavy hardwood
Shorea sect. Almon S. almon, S. contorta, S. leprosula, S. leptoclados, S. smithiana Almon light red to pink
Shorea sect. Anthoshorea S. assamica, S. assamica, S. bracteolata, S. dealbata, S. hypochra, S. javanica, S. lamellata, S. maranti White Meranti light hardwood
Shorea sect. Richetia S. acuminatissima, S. faguetiana, S. gibbosa, S. hopeifolia, S. multiflora Yellow Meranti light hardwood
Shorea sect. Rubroshorea S. curtisii, S. hemsleyana, S. macrantha, S. pauciflora, S. platyclados, S. rugosa, S. singkawang, 4 other spp. Dark red Meranti (Meranti bukit) light hardwood
S. acuminata, S. dasyphylla, S. johorensis, S. lepidota, S. parvifolia Light red Meranti light hardwood
Shorea balangeran, Shorea collina, Shorea guiso, Shorea kunstleri, Shorea ochrophloia, [[Shorea plagata Red Balau heavy hardwood
Shorea Shorea macroptera Melantai light hardwood
Shorea Shorea negrosensis Red Lauan dark red-brown to brick red
Shorea Shorea ovata Tianong light red to light red-brown
Shorea Shorea platyclados Meranti Bukit light hardwood
Shorea Shorea polysperma Tanguile red to red-brown
Shorea Shorea robusta Sal
Shorea Shorea squamata Mayapis light red to red-brown
Shorea Shorea uliginosa Meranti Bakau light hardwood


  • Ashton, P.S. Dipterocarpaceae. Flora Malesiana, 1982 Series I, 92: 237-552.
  • Maury-Lechon, G. and Curtet, L. Biogeography and Evolutionary Systematics of Dipterocarpaceae. In A Review of Dipterocarps: Taxonomy, ecology and silviculture, 1998. Appanah, S. and Turnbull, J.M. eds. Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia. ISBN 979-8764-20-X.
  • Dayanandan, S. Ashton, P.S. Williams, S.M. Primack, R.B. 1999. Phylogeny of the tropical tree family Dipterocarpaceae based on nucleotide sequences of the chloroplast RBCL gene. American Journal of Botany. 86(8): 1182.
  • M. Ducousso, G. Béna, C. Bourgeois, B. Buyck, G. Eyssartier, M. Vincelette, R. Rabevohitra, L. Randrihasipara, B. Dreyfus, Y. Prin. The last common ancestor of Sarcolaenaceae and Asian dipterocarp trees was ectomycorrhizal before the India-Madagascar separation, about 88 million years ago. Molecular Ecology 13: 231 January 2004.

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